Politecnico di Milano, School of Design (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 7672-7678
ISBN: 978-84-606-5763-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 9th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2015
Location: Madrid, Spain
In this paper I would like to describe the potentialities of the workshop (ws) format in education - thanks to experiences I did both as a teaching assistant and as a user - in order to gather:
- key features of this kind of practices
- psychological (inner and environmental) aspects that increase the results’ level
- adjustment of usual teaching methodologies
- increase of tutoring capacities
The goal is to support this approach, especially in design education and practice.

One of the fundamental component of education is time: have time to learn means have time to let information be received, understood and, finally, learned. The last means that these information are not only memorized, but are also knowledge ready to be used. Each notion follow this linear path and crosses a multitude of others where categorizations, comparisons and value scaling composed everyone knowledge.

What happens in design schools, where students are asked to acquire information and to made project at the same time? More then other courses, design education is not linear in the passage from “learning” to “doing” (practicing) but stays in constant balance between acquirements and practices. Furthermore, learning and doing phases related to a specific notion do not run their binary simultaneously: very often occurred that a project asked to be aware of an aspect (i.e. how a specific material can be used) before that notion has been received and, vice versa, a notion is acquired when there is no awareness of how it can be employed. That can cause a sense a unsuitableness in controlling the wide design range, which crosses cultural (social, historical, anthropological aspects) and scientific knowledge.
Thus, the time to learn extends in lifelong education training.

So, how can be the ws format useful in design education and practice?
A ws is a short project experience, generally 4 to 7 days long, where people working on the same topic or interested on a given topic met in a define place to reach a common goal (create a project, reflect actively). Sometimes people already know the other participants since the ws is hosted in the same institution attended; more often the ws is in other city/country (generally the place is strongly related to the topic). Participants have in common the study/work field.

The constant aspect is that people are quickly introduced in a unknown and limited* context from 3 points of view:
1 place: country-areas-instruments available
2 time: start/end closed
3 social composition of the group [staff+participants].
(* that will not change along the days)

This sort of shared isolation where the context hold steady is an important element. Unknown space, a limited time and a social composition where one’s behaviour/role is not immediately codified, compose the exceptional condition in which concentration and creativity are intensified.
This gathering depends on many aspects: direct confrontation, a unique occasion to check one's capabilities, competition, the need to find solutions to the topic given, fast project realization (prototype), be innovative, the need to bring out one’s capacities.
Teaching methods change too: tutors are asked to propose specific design strategies and tools that could support fast processes.

Finally, the goal asked have to be full of meaning but, of course, not perfect: in this way, ws format generates high level outputs thanks to the perfect dosage of abstraction, temporariness and learning through making.
Education, design strategy, design tools, shared isolation, workshop, cognitive theory, learning, making.